The Return of Global Underground

Words by: Simon Whight
Posted: 15/9/14 10:15

The Returns of Global Underground

After having the ground paved by the likes of the Ministry Of Sound and Renaissance mix series, Global Underground was the all dominating entity of the late nineties. Even as pretenders rose to challenge - fabric's monthly assault, Balance's lower key early progressive entries - the combination of top tier DJ's, worldwide hosted parties and polished to a fine gloss physical CD releases seemed near impossible to topple.

I have a simple formula for selecting GU DJ's; they have to be able to deliver amazing mix albums. Simple as that. Timeless classic albums that will stand the test of time...Something happened though. As we rolled through the first decade of the new millennium, digital became a new force in consumable media. The all dominating might of the progressive DJ's fell foul as the underground lurched into abstract minimal territories while the superstar rock aspiring DJ's forged on to seek stadium dance glory. Global Underground was shuffled out of the limelight as critics started to look towards distinct entities from Kompakt and fabric's scene dictating output.

These very same critical outlets have been declaring the death of the mix CD format this year. Global Underground, it seems, is not ready to admit defeat. After a brief hiatus, Global Underground 40 not only sees the label hit a landmark, but a return with a renewed focus. Diynamic's Solomun is a familiar name to us all and a fresh entry to what became a bit of a recurring roster in the Global Underground family. Sticking true to the hosted party and subsequent 2xCD issuing of bliss and thump respectively, slipping into the mix is like bumping into an old friend by accident. Of course the passing years has introduced a mystery to the familiarity. While the CD stays true to the sonic aesthetic of the series, it forges into melodic and thoughtful areas, demonstrating that there is a keen eye that has been monitoring the contemporary scene.

Is this the return of the king? We caught up with Global Underground's Andy Horsfield to get under the skin of the re-ignition of the Global Underground brand.

It's great to see GU40:Solomun get out the door after the original GU40 was cancelled a couple of years ago. What happened back then to make you call it all to a halt?
Nothing really caused the slow down in our releases, I just decided i wanted to change stuff up a little. As you know this is GU's 18th year in business, which is a very long time in dance music terms and I just wanted to be 100% sure that the person I worked with for our landmark GU40 release was the very best, and sure enough he is. Solomun, for me, is the very best DJ and producer in the world right now ... no competition, and the positive response to the album has been breathtaking. I'm glad I waited and made the right choice.

People said video would kill radio. Well guess what? Radio is alive and well. People said VHS and Betamax would kill movie theatre's. Millions still go to the movies every week. People said vinyl is dead no one will buy records again. It has had a huge resurgence...As the main representative for progressive house and the then elite crop of DJ's, did you feel the series had been caught standing, with the A-list rapidly becoming dominated by EDM names and the underground shifting away from progressive into a less defined melting pot of genres?
I guess it depends on how you define 'elite'. If you talk about dj fees then yes, most of the highest earning "DJ's" I would never work with as they don't share the values I hold true to creating amazing mix albums. I still believe the "elite" in terms of the best DJ's in the world are people I'd gladly work with. I have a simple formula for selecting GU DJ's; they have to be able to deliver amazing mix albums. Simple as that. Timeless classic albums that will stand the test of time. This accounts for what some people may think are strange choices in our past but people trust GU to deliver the worlds best and we do.

There has been a lot of talk of the death of the mix CD as a format with a few articles of that nature this year. Is this something you subscribe to and do you feel it is a risky market to be launching back into?
I've read these stupid articles too. Sure CD sales are not what they were but digital still hasn't bridged the divide. In the world of disposable throw away mixes people still want crafted beautifully curated and presented mix albums, which thankfully is something that GU does like no other.

People said video would kill radio. Well guess what? Radio is alive and well. People said VHS and Betamax would kill movie theatre's. Millions still go to the movies every week. People said vinyl is dead no one will buy records again. It has had a huge resurgence.

Ostgut Ton has recently made the brave move of not only going purely digital with their mix series, but also offering it as a free download. Is this an avenue you could see the GU series investigating?
It is a brave move and something that you can do if the albums are easy to put together like Ostgut's. The beauty of GU is that our albums are about a whole movement, an event, a city. We cover each party or event and capture a moment in time with crafted sleeve notes from the best music journalists, photography from the best photographers, create cool films and, of course, employ the very best DJ's in the world to mix and compile each carefully crafted album. To do all this and then give it away would not do each album justice.

Over to the event itself. How did the hookup with Solomun come about and what was the big night like?
I've actually have known Aga Heller for years, he is part of the DIY Booking / Diynamic team, I'd also been watching Solomun for many years and was always blown away by his DJing, his productions and remixes. Everything he touches is pure class. So I chatted with Aga and we set the album up. It was a great fit for Solomun and for GU.

The party was amazing, very very cool crowd. The club is in the middle of the Repperbahn and you can imagine how crazy it was round there. Also that night Germany had just won in the semi finals of the world cup, so the atmosphere was electric. Solomun ripped the place up he was simply amazing.

EDM has done one thing though and that's to put dance music on millions of peoples radar. As these peoples tastes develop they will explore different genres which is good for everyone in dance music. EDM for me is a gateway genre of dance music, that's all...Is the CD an accurate reflection of what went down?
There's a lot of the music he played on there for sure but he played such a long set it would be hard to put all that on cd's!

Any amusing tales from this event, or anything GU in that respect? I'm fondly recalling moments from the Transmission 001 DVD where the GU team was having their camera gear eyed up by opportunistic locals on Dave Seaman's visit to Argentina. Or have things calmed down as the years have passed?
Ha ha, gentleman never tells! Needless to say the GU crew made lots of new friends in Hamburg!

Are you taking a chance to sit back after this release, or is it straight into planning GU41?
Hell no, roll on GU41. Working on it now, stayed tuned!

You've also been doing a lot of work in the US under the Ministry Of Sound banner. How have you found that? Is it a market that has been more receptive to dance music now the EDM explosion has happened, or are there two very different streams of nightlife at work over there?
I actually exited that business a few years ago to focus on GU 100%, so its hard for me to comment too much on the commercial scene in the US. EDM has done one thing though and that's to put dance music on millions of peoples radar. As these peoples tastes develop they will explore different genres which is good for everyone in dance music. EDM for me is a gateway genre of dance music, that's all.

And finally, looking back over the history of GU, what was the best actual event you ever hosted and what was the CD that you proudest of out of all of them?
The most fun and memorable for a lot of reasons was Sasha's Ibiza (GU13) back in summer of 1999, and without doubt one of the best albums we've ever done.

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